Singers Who Left Successful Bands to Become Even More Successful

Rockstar.  The word is synonymous with professional athlete, movie star, and perhaps even superhero when it comes to “careers most humans wish they could have.”

As is the case with most worthwhile dreams, taking your band from the garage to the radio, carrying your voice from online karaoke sessions to the stage, and ultimately around the world is one of the rockiest roads anyone can travel.  Very few make it off the ground, and even the ones who become huge international sensations often encounter enough turmoil and turbulence to shake the band members apart.  Relationships between two people have a less than inspirational success rate: imagine trying to maintain a relationship between three or more.  Going solo is often the option for singers when a group splits up, in fact many groups have split up because the singer felt they could do better on their own.  The following is a list of ten singers who weren’t necessarily the cause of their former band’s breakup, but who have definitely outshone their past accomplishments.

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Michael Jackson

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Five albums. 222 million sold worldwide.  Although he was recording and releasing solo works while still singing with his brothers in the Jackson 5, it wouldn’t be until Michael’s Off the Wall record hit the shelves in 1979 that his solo career would blast off into the atmosphere.  Three years later he would present Thriller, an album which still holds the world record for most albums sold at 110 million.  RIP Michael, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever coming close to beating your record, no one has yet to even reach half.

Peter Gabriel

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Eight years after founding Genesis in 1967, flamboyant front-man Peter Gabriel left the band to pursue his own musical ambitions, creative endeavours, and to help raise his newborn daughter.  Since his departure he’s released seven solo studio albums, with So going multi-platinum five times over, two live albums and three compilations, the first of which, Shaking the Tree also reached multi-platinum status.  His overall success as a singer/songwriter/producer/musician, coupled with his various world music projects, movie soundtracks and humanitarian efforts, have all earned him the 2009 Polar Music Prize, which is one of the most prestigious music awards in the world.

Phil Collins

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After the near-impossible task of finding a replacement for Gabriel, drummer and backup singer Phil Collins sat in the lead singer’s seat for the headless Genesis.  The band would go on to record several critically acclaimed albums, each one from 1978s And Then There Were Three, to 1991s We Can’t Dance going platinum and higher.  Genesis’ video for the song Land of Confusion would go toe-to-toe and lose to Peter Gabriel’s video for Sledgehammer at the MTV Video Awards.

Sting

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Who decides to leave a six-time Grammy Award-winning, chart-crushing band to hit the risky streets of solo career land?  Sting, that’s who.  Well actually each member of The Police decided to part ways after the release of their most successful album, Synchronicity. After The Police um… disbanded in 1983, Sting’s solo career would carry him towards seven multi-platinum albums, earn him a spot in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and three “Best Song” Oscar nomination for My Funny Friend and Me, Until, and You Will Be My Ain True Love. Sting has also made dozens of acting appearances in films like Dune, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Bee Movie, as well as in television shows like The Simpsons, Ally Mcbeal and Studio 60 on Sunset Strip.

Beyoncé Knowles

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(Time for a little game called “Where’s Beyoncé?”)

It’s difficult to know where to start with this one.  Since signing a three-album solo deal with Columbia records in 2000, Destiny Child’s Beyoncé has put 12 singles in the Top 10 of the Hot 100, more than any female solo artist of this decade.  She has been nominated for a total 209 music awards, 84 of which she won.  Her albums Dangerously in Love, B’Day and I am…Sasha Pierce have gone platinum for a combined total of nine times in the US alone.  Not too shabby a decade!

Justin Timberlake

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Whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying the ultra-success of this pop star since boy band ‘N Sync dissolved in 2002.  Aside from his two albums, which have sold a total of 17 million copies worldwide, Timberlake has collaborated on hit songs with superstars like Madonna, 50 Cent, Timbaland, Elton John, Nelly Furtado, the Black Eyed Peas, and of course who can forget his performance with Janet Jackson.  The boy can sing, dance, and produce popular music with the best of ‘em, but it took a while for him to shake the whole “boy band” stigma off and become accepted as the talented performer he is.

Ozzy Osborne

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Black Sabbath has been a revolving door for singers and musicians, experiencing twenty-two different band members over the last thirty years or so.  Ozzy Osborne, one of the founding members, was the first to be fired back in1979 for yep, you guessed it, “unreliability due to substance abuse.”  Under the reigns of his new manager, his own wife Sharon, he would release Blizzard of Ozz the following year. This first solo attempt would achieve no less than a quadruple-platinum certification in the US alone.  Over the next two decades he would release a total of eight studio albums, all of which would sell millions worldwide.  Probably one of Ozzy and Sharon’s greatest successes was the founding of Ozzfest, a touring heavy metal festival which has grossed over $100 million since its inception, and which has helped launch the careers of dozens of metal bands.

Peter Frampton

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Five years after leaving the rock/rhythm and blues band Humble Pie, Peter Frampton would release Frampton Comes Alive in 1976, which still to this day remains the fourth best-selling live album of all time, selling over 20 million copies around the globe. Although many of his albums since have not been met with as much commercial success, his most recent, Fingerprints would go on to win him a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album. The singer has also made appearances on The Simpsons and Family Guy, and continues to tour the world where his songs are adored.

Eric Clapton

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Okay, how do we do this? Let’s start with I Shot the Sheriff, Wonderful Tonight, Cocaine, Change the World, Tears in Heaven, My Father’s Eyes, to name a very few. Naturally, when a singer/musician goes solo, they’re never completely alone. Since leaving the bands John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, the Yardbirds, and Cream, Eric Clapton has collaborated with many of the planet’s best musicians and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a third time in 2000, but this time the honour was in recognition of his work as a solo artist.

Paul McCartney

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The same year the international music phenomenon known as The Beatles broke up, Paul McCartney never broke stride and released his first solo album in 1970 entitled simply, McCartney. The record would blast off to the number one spot on the American charts, where it would remain for three weeks, earning a double-platinum certification. He provided the singing as well as played every single instrument on the album, his wife Linda provided some backup vocals. Of the twenty-two albums he would go on to record after his super-success with The Beatles, fourteen were produced as a solo performer, many of which went platinum, all of which went gold. In 2005 he would sing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with U2 at a Live 8 concert, a song which would become the “fastest-released single in history…reach[ing] number six on the Billboard charts, just hours after the single’s release.” The singer has been knighted as a result of his music, and was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. Sir Paul recently made an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, his first time back at the Ed Sullivan Theatre since the Beatles made the girls scream back in ’64. After a great interview with Dave he went on to perform Get Back among others to thousands of loving fans from the theatre’s marquee.

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6 Comments

Posted by Adam 20. August 2009 at 2:08 pm :

Interesting article, all of these were really good bands and those members went off on their own to make an even bigger name for themselves.

Posted by Jon 20. August 2009 at 2:34 pm :

Good list and great post!

Eric Clapton is one of the sickest guitarists in the world!

Posted by Darryl 20. August 2009 at 9:24 pm :

I did not know that Frampton was in HumblePie. Cool list.

Posted by socialpyramid 23. August 2009 at 8:14 pm :

Cool list. But where’s Bjork?

Posted by xanthe 25. August 2009 at 2:21 pm :

what about robbie wiliams?

Posted by alec 24. October 2009 at 11:37 am :

yeah, Paul was NOT MORE successful

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